Fascist Italy and Behavior of Individuals

“The Fascist State” by Christopher Leeds describes the ways in which Mussolini and the Italian Fascist Party attempted to mold Italian society.

“Our whole way of eating, dressing, working and sleeping, in short all our everyday habits, must be changed” ((Christopher Leeds, “The Fascist State” in Italy under Mussolini, London: Wayland Publishers, 52.)) .

This passage is particularly important to the article because it highlights the depth in which the fascist government and Mussolini sought to modify Italian society and change individuals’ behavior. However, as Leeds suggests they were not able to successfully do so. This was in part due to the fact that the regime lacked tangible policies to accomplish specific goals ((Christopher Leeds, “The Fascist State”, 35.)) . This article challenged preexisting ideas I had about fascism in Italy and the impact it had on lives of individuals.
The regime intervened on a wide array of themes within Italy’s cultural sphere including sport, leisure behavior, and customs. Sports were of great importance and were used as a form of propaganda for the state, much like that of the Nazi Regime. All clubs, groups and societies were brought under control of the Fascist regime in an attempt to control the behavior, activities and thoughts of all citizens. Fascist leaders also thought it was necessary to modify traditional Italian customs that reflected or were introduced during times when Italy was occupied by France (Napoleon) and Spain ((Christopher Leeds, “The Fascist State”, 52)). Despite attempts to control all aspects of the private sphere of individuals, the Italian population as a whole did not undergo a dramatic transformation. In fact, such government invasion of private life aggravated most Italians.
Why do you think the behavior of Italians remained largely unaffected by the changes imposed by the State? How does Italy’s social sphere compare to that of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany?

A Fluctuating State

I used to think of Fascist regimes as strict and highly consistent. However, Christopher Leeds’ article, “The Fascist State” describes the vast changes that occurred within the Fascist party during its time in power. The party’s lack of concrete political ideologies granted it the flexibility to react to economic, social, and political developments throughout the decades.

The Fascist party, led by Mussolini, could implement policies even if they seemed useless or superfluous. I particularly enjoyed the example of the party’s incentives to increase the Italian population and the exchange between Emil Ludwig, the German writer and reporter, and Mussolini. When Ludwig questioned Mussolini’s goal to increase the Italian population, the Duce erupted in the reporters face ((Leeds, Christopher. “The Fascist State” in Italy under Mussolini, London: Wayland Publishers, 40.)) Such a lively exchange highlighted Mussolini’s political sensitivity and his obsession with control. The Fascist state, and its leader, needed to appear infallible in order to legitimize the authoritarian control it exerted over Italy. Ludwig questioned, and rightly so, the necessity Mussolini’s policies aimed at increasing the Italian population due to the country’s existing high population density ((Christopher Leeds, “The Fascist State,” 40.)) These policies cemented the post-WWI fears that we studied earlier in the year. The devastating casualties inflicted by modern weapons taught world leaders that military success hinged on manpower.

Such episodes, such as the one between Ludwig and Mussolini, also start to highlight a trend that authoritarian leaders all stand on edge and might suffer from some sort of self confidence problems. Do you think that self-consciousness is a prerequisite to become a dictator?